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Opinions of Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Columnist: Richard Sarpong

A call to fix the country very genuine

#FixTheCountry #FixTheCountry

Forget about the politics, the reality remains that, COVID-19 visited us with so much dexterity of wrecking and destruction. The Ghanaian economy had been in good shape comparatively since 2017 to 2020. In my first part, I listed most of the very good economic gains made within that period. This is evident in facts and figures available.

Even though, the NPP don't seek to say, all was well and everybody was okay, the economy had been taken off the pit it fell into before 2017 to the reverse.

The fact is that, despite the many gains made, it got to a time where decision making was very tough. Government had to risk the gains it had made earlier to the benefit of human lives. Yes, we needed to save lives at the expense of the economic progress we had wheeled on to. In 2020 when COVID-19 visited us, like any other pandemic or adverse disaster, two major things are at play; economic progress and human lives. Governments had to sacrifice one for the other.

We have seen in this pandemic, some governments chose their economic growth to the expense of human lives, but, this did not happen in Ghana. To president Akufo-Addo, the lives of the people matters and so he stood to save lives than saving the economy. His infamous "we know how to bring the economy back to life, what we do not know, is to bring people back to life" comment which saw international applauds was or is a clear indication of his message and decision in the era of the pandemic. What he meant was, let's save human lives at this critical period and let's go off our economic gains.

So, did he actually do that? Yes!

He sacrificed the juicy economic growth of the country. Monies which could have been used for building roads, hospitals, schools, and what have you were spent on the citizenry and ordinary Ghanaian to be able to absorb the shocks of the pandemic. Billions of Ghana Cedis were spent on free feeding for the vulnerable, disinfections of public spaces and offices, tax cuts, free and subsidized electricity bills, free water, 50% salary increment for Frontline health workers, full salary payment for the public service worker even though some sat home for close to a year without work and many others.

Again, billions of cedis were spent of Small, Micro and Medium Scale enterprises to spur up their financial needs which the virus had crippled. We should not forget, these monies and tax cuts were not in government's plans for the year but had to do so to lessen the burden on the heads and shoulders of Ghanaians.

Morever, after giving all these painful but necessary freebies, production continued to dwindle especially in the private sector which is the engine of the economy. The devasting amour of the virus was so powerful that, it was able to collapse some businesses in less than six months. International patronage for the very things that brought us monies like cocoa, crude, gold, etc continued to wheeling downwards.

Crude oil for instance came to all time lowest of about $30 per barrel in over decades. This meant, our income levels shrunk but the expenditure ballooned. Truth be told, the devastation of the virus is still with us and even stronger this time. The many Ghanaians who lost their jobs as a result of the virus are still home and suffering.

The bad roads, poor school infrastructure, poor health infrastructure and all others which were sacrificed still exist and may even need more resources to build than before. We cannot behave as if all had turned to be good in few months, it has not!

Gracefully, the hope is still on. The Akufo-Addo government has not turned it back on what it has to do. The challenge is cast and it takes leadership to do so. What cannot be done, is overturning the havoc of the virus in few years.

The virus still with us and we must manage it carefully amidst finding ways to resurrect the economy. Those calling for a fix may be right but let's get the basis and foundation of our current economy. Fixing it requires collective sacrifices from leader's and citizens.

The desire to build Ghana can't be achieved by only a government. The government sacrificed it's interest for us in hard times, it is time to also sacrifice part of our own to get Ghana back to life. When you look critically at the at the low COVID-19 death rate in Ghana today, it is the sacrifice of the economy for our lives that made it so.

In other countries where the human lives were sacrificed for the economy, we all can attest to the devastion in terms of human lives lost.

Let's fix thing together, the time is now or never!